A reworking of the Globe's version of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' returns to London at Rose Theatre Kingston this September.
After slightly drizzly season opener ‘The Tempest’, this rollicking ‘Dream’ finds the Globe at its crowd-pleasing best, a hearty and hilarious night of feral fairies, mud-spattered lovers and clodhopping mechanicals.
Director Dominic Dromgoole clearly has most fun with the last group, a bunch of lumpen labourers rehearsing a diabolically bad drama in the haunted woodlands around Athens. The last 45 minutes or so of the evening are given over to a wilfully deranged take on their woeful play-within-a-play, ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’, overamped into a wonderfully and purposefully incomprehensible mess in which the dimwit ‘cast’ scream, faint, forget their lines, fall through cracks in the stage, struggle to be heard over the floor being fixed and freak out over a dead cat. It’s complete anarchy, and joyously so.
The wonderfully deadpan Pearce Quigley very nearly stole the show in last summer’s ‘Taming of the Shrew’; here he walks off with it as an ultra-laconic Bottom, investing the normally boorish chief mechanical with a sort of hangdog glumness that’s amusingly Eeyore-ish. Which is appropriate, since he does get turned into a donkey as part of the convoluted romantic machinations of fairy king Oberon (John Light) and queen Titania (Michelle Terry).
Draped in leather and animal furs, and covered in mud, the phantasmal monarchs and their court are not fey, twinkling sprites but mercurial beasts of the medieval forest. Light is by turns scary and hilarious as a powerful Oberon following a wild, unfathomable internal logic; Matthew Tennyson is a hoot as his boyish, understandably confused sidekick Puck. And Michelle Terry is a potent Titania who faces down the bizarre plotting of her husband with great grace.
It doesn’t all gel together perfectly, and the third set of characters – the young lovers who stumble into the woods – only just succeed in holding their own amongst such boisterous and boldly drawn company. But that’s not a problem – anarchy is the name of Dromgoole’s game, and he plays it like a champion.
By Andrzej Lukowski